What can we learn about the slave trade from just one poem?

This lesson uses a very simple source to help pupils to get a feel for some of the issues they will be investigating in the weeks ahead in their slavery enquiry. The point of using the poem is that it raises questions and makes assumptions about contextual knowledge that the pupils lack at the moment.  In an effort to understand what William Cowper is saying, pupils have to work hard to deduce his real meaning.

Learning objectives

  • pupils apply contextual knowledge to make deductions from  poem
  • they make inferences about poet’s attitude to slavery by referring to the words and images he uses

Step 1

Read the poem by William Cowper shown on the PowerPoint presentation, line by line, a couple of times, using slides 2 and 3 which has hyperlinked pictures to bring the poem alive.  Then ask pupils to annotate their versions of the poem, underlining things they understand and putting question marks next to those they need explained.

Step 2

Take time responding to pupils’ questions, and use slide 4 to raise further possible questions. Talk through some of the questions and issues that the poem raises, but don’t give too much away.

Step 3

Give pupils

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